It’s not easy taking over for a Hall-of-Fame coach. It’s even harder when that coach is your father.
Charlie Buscaglia made it look easy this year in his first season as head coach of the Robert Morris women’s basketball team.
The 37-year-old Hamburg native led the Pittsburgh school to an NCAA Tournament berth with a victory in the Northeast Conference title game on Sunday.
Buscaglia is the son of Sal Buscaglia, who was elected to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame last summer. Sal Buscaglia compiled a 710-368 record over 38 coaching seasons, the last 13 of which were at Robert Morris.
Charlie Buscaglia spent the previous 13 years as an aide to his dad, and expectations were high for this season.
The Colonials went 20-13 in Sal’s final season and made the NCAA Tournament. Robert Morris was picked for second in the Northeast Conference this year. It won the regular-season title and went 22-10, beating Bryant in the tournament title game, 65-52.
“My AD came up to me at the end of January when we started to get it going, told me you’re doing a great job of playing better as the year goes on,” Buscaglia said. “That was a great compliment to me because this is a process. Being the team that’s going to be there in March is what you strive for. Our players were playing their best basketball going into March.”
Robert Morris has won 14 of its last 15 games.
Years of playing his dues as an aide gave Buscaglia a clear-cut vision for leading the program.
“The things we live by on our team is what we call pillars,” he said. “Our pillars are humility, servanthood, thankfulness, unity and passion. Those are the five thigs we live by. When you look at those words, they sound great, and everyone wants to be that kind of person. But you have to live it every day. And you have to do it when the tough times come.”
Robert Morris ranks 23rd in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 56.3 ppg.
“We played man to man defense the whole season, and we’ve gotten better,” Buscaglia said. “We’ve worked harder and we’ve set the tone defensively on many occasions. . . . In this culture in today’s society, everyone’s drawn to scoring, drawn to players putting up triple-doubles. During this run, our team has been very focused on serving each other and concerned about their teammates and winning the game, not worrying about their own personal stuff. It’s a true test of humility.”
Buscaglia learned humility working for his dad. When Sal Buscaglia left Manhattan to coach Robert Morris in 2003, he brought Charlie along. But the only position available was as a volunteer assistant.
Charlie had other opportunities for paying assistant jobs at the time. He went to Pittsburgh due to loyalty and his father’s persuasiveness.
“I had to come on as a volunteer . . . and that lasted for four years here,” Charlie said. “Can you imagine working for your father for no money for three years, eight months?”
The dues-paying paid off. Buscaglia was named conference coach of the year.
The Colonials lost in the first round of last year's NCAAs to Connecticut, 101-49. This year they play No. 1 seed Notre Dame on Friday.